Awesome students and activists rally against high school's "anti-gay day"
Last week, students at McGuffey High School in Pennsylvania organized an “Anti-Gay Day” in protest of their school’s Day of Silence for LGBTQ+ youth. Students wrote “anti-gay” on their hands, wore coordinated flannel shirts, stuck Bible verses on LGBTQ+ students’ lockers, and posted verses on social media, tagging LGBTQ+ classmates. Much more disturbingly, participants allegedly also passed out a lynch list (made up of those who participated in the Day of Silence) and hung a noose from a flag in a school classroom, Buzzfeed reports — and we are still processing what a horrifying and heartbreaking display of bigotry and hatred the day was.
“We came in to school on Thursday and found a lot of people wearing flannel and we couldn’t figure out why,” Zoe Johnson, a 16-year-old bisexual student at McGuffey High School, told BuzzFeed News. “People started getting pushed and notes were left on people’s lockers.”
“They were calling us every horrible name you can think of,” recalled Johnson, one of the school’s students publicly speaking out about the horrific actions of her classmates.
The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) organized the national Day of Silence for last Friday, but McGuffey’s Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) planned their observance for Wednesday, due to a school-wide planned field trip. The Day of Silence was meant to bring awareness to LGBTQ+ bullying and harassment in schools — and it’s shameful that it was met with the very thing it aimed to protest.
“They had a very silent, respectful day of action, and then they came to school on Thursday to an organized backlash,” Kathy Cameron, chair of the board of directors for the Washington County Gay Straight Alliance, told BuzzFeed News.
But Johnson and other members of the GSA refused to accept their classmates’ behavior quietly, and spoke at a school board meeting last Thursday night imploring the school’s administrators to take action.
“We had a really positive reaction,” Johnson said. “Both the superintendent and assistant superintendent shook my hand. It was very positive. You could tell whose side they were truly on.”
The school is currently investigating the allegations, and in the meantime, McGuffey’s LGBTQ+ students have been met with a ton of love and encouragement. The Internet has rallied in support of the students, and their actions have extended well beyond the screen. On Monday, a group of supporters organized a peaceful protest outside the school, where they carried positive, encouraging posters and other messages of solidarity.
“The bullying and the harassment has gone on long enough,” the event’s description reads. “Tomorrow we stand up for our children and tell them that exactly who they are is OKAY. They need our love and support now more than ever.”
And it seems like their efforts were met with a great response.
“We were there, seen, and treated to thumbs-up, honks and waves from tons of passing cars,” one participant wrote on the event page. “Most of the buses coming from the west saw us, and hopefully some downtrodden youngsters felt a little jolt of love!”
Also according to the Facebook event page, students have planned a counter-protest of their own, where they will wear tie-dye shirts and draw equal signs on themselves to show their support for equality amongst all gender and sexual identities. It’s wonderful to see that such a positive response could be born from something so decidedly negative, and we couldn’t be happier to see how many have stood up against the student-led”Anti-Gay Day.”
It is as essential as ever that we fight LGBTQ+ discrimination, especially for those still in school. According to GLSEN’s most recent study, 85% of LGBTQ+ students were verbally harassed in school in the last year, and according to a study done by the Human Rights Campaign, LGBTQ+ students are twice as likely as their heterosexual, cisgendered peers to be physically assaulted in school. The only way we can begin to change this is to take action and actively support those who continue to be discriminated against. No matter how you identify, you deserve to be treated with respect — and we couldn’t be more inspired by Johnson, McGuffey’s GSA, and all those who have rallied in support of the school’s LGBTQ+ students.